Build Credit: The Truth About Living Debt Free

For a lot of people, living with credit card debt is simply a way of life. We have all heard of the credit crunch where banks lent more to people than they could afford to pay back. When people fell behind on their repayments, the banks were in trouble and drastically cut back on the amount of money they were lending. This then led to a collapse in the housing market as a glut of foreclosures suddenly came up for sale. A lot of people, during this depression, decided that credit was actually a bad thing and they started to live a debt free lifestyle. While this is a great idea in principle, it is not a good idea to close your credit card accounts and attempt to live life on a cash only basis.
The problem is that your credit score affects many areas of your life. For example, car insurance companies now use credit scoring as a way to determine how responsible you are behind the wheel of a car. More and more companies are now using credit scoring to decide how responsible you will be as an employee. Also, if you ever need cash in an emergency, it is essential to have a good credit score to ensure you get the money you need quickly and at the best rate.
What most people do not understand is that not having credit is just as bad as having bad credit. We no longer live in a society where you can be good friends with your bank manager and he, knowing who you are and how you live, can decide whether to lend you the money you need. Most bank managers know little more than sales department managers.
At US Bank, for example, the local branch no longer has control over whether a check that overdrafts your account will be paid or bounced. If you call the branch and ask them to pay it, they will tell you that they have no control over it. They will tell you, however, that you should apply for overdraft protection so that it does not happen again, and they will happily help you fill out an application. Of course, whether or not they grant you overdraft protection depends on your credit score.
The problem with not having credit is that the credit bureaus will no longer be able to assess your credit worthiness. Rather than assume you are a good person to lend to and risk being wrong, they will err on the side of caution and assign you a poor credit score. This could lead to higher rates on your car insurance, mortgage or even stop you from getting a job or promotion.
Unfortunately, it is not a good idea to simply put the credit cards into a drawer and never use them either. A lot of companies will declare unused cards as inactive and therefore they will not count towards building your credit score. However, there is a solution that will not cost you extra money in interest and will still build your credit score.
The solution is to have between three and five credit cards and set them up to automatically pay one monthly bill each. For example, your cable bill could be paid out of one card, your car insurance could be paid out of another and your gym membership could be paid out of a third card. In order to avoid interest charges, you could then set up an automatic payment to these cards from your bank.
In essence, using this method, your money leaves your bank and arrives at the place it needs to get to; it just passes through your credit card accounts on the way. This allows you to essentially live debt free, but give you the benefits of a healthy credit score so you have access to the cash you need in case of an emergency.